Advent 1: Peace – Claire Black
There was a time in my life when everything felt like the exact opposite of peace: distress, anguish, despair, anxiety, worry, and catastrophe. There were moments when the weight I felt on my chest would actually take my breath away. I was afraid to open my eyes in the morning for fear that my circumstances were in fact real, and that I would have to endure yet another day of pain, disappointment, and uncertainty. I was so unsure of how to move through the mess that I felt paralyzed at times.
What if I make a wrong decision?
What if I say or do the wrong thing?
How am I supposed to do this?
How am I supposed to fix this?
BUT (there’s always a big but!) as I was dwelling on my circumstances and trying to sort through all of the problems, issues, and injustices in my life; as I was focusing on my own insufficiency, weakness, and failings, a wise friend finally asked me why I keep asking these things of myself? She wrote out my question: “How am I…” and then turned it on its head, writing: “I am how.” She then reminded me that God is the answer to all of these questions. I understood very quickly that I can’t fix this, and I am not supposed to do this alone. I changed my focus and started to remember God’s promises, seeing the points in my life when He has proven to be faithful: “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5); I have “plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11); nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:38-39); “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1); “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27); “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast” (Isaiah 26:3); and, His “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). God promises, through his son Jesus, that he will never leave us in our pit of despair. No. He has sent us the Prince of Peace to comfort us and to “make straight in the wilderness a highway” to lift up every valley, and to lower every mountain, so that the uneven ground “shall become level, the rugged places a plain” (Isaiah 40:3 and 4). We don’t walk these roads alone. We have a peaceful and powerful companion who will not only lead us and guide us along life’s paths, but carry us when the road gets treacherous and becomes too much for us to bear.
Just as the Prince of Peace extends his peace and comfort to his people, this Christmas season as you reflect on the meaning behind it all and prepare your heart to receive His blessing of peace, I would invite you to practice “passing the peace” to others: “Let the Peace of Christ be with you.” The act of passing the peace is an ancient and profound gesture that trains us in the way of peace; as we take up the practice of passing His peace, we also help others to receive His peace, and in turn we all come closer to being at peace with God, at peace with ourselves, and at peace with one another.
I pray this Advent we will remember that we are a people of peace. As we meditate on the gift of peace from Christ, let it be a soothing balm to our hearts, forming our hearts and minds in the shape of peace.